Home Work

Questions to Ask a Home Inspector

May 14, 2003 at 2:06 pm

Once you've found the perfect home and the high of initial excitement begins to wane, your thoughts turn like Darth Vader to the dark side. Your autonomic reality check mechanisms kick in as you ponder what evils might lurk in the shadows.

A good Realtor will have prepped you for this moment by having stressed to you the importance of getting a complete home inspection. Now you wonder who should do it and what qualifications should you be looking for.

To assist buyers, I recommend at least three inspection services and suggest the following questions to ask:

I've already pre-qualified them by making sure they're members of the NAHI National Association of Home Inspectors and or ASHI American Association of Home Inspectors, who set standards of excellence and practice through knowledge and experience that all members must achieve before being accepted and certified.

For your own peace of mind, ask them what their qualifications are and how long they've been performing inspections. Ask for a sample inspection report and make sure the inspector will allow you to attend the inspection. Make sure the inspector will allow you to review the report and provide enough time to answer any and all questions.

An inspector who's experienced in the construction trades — be it engineering or contracting — can provide valuable insight into building issues, but be careful not to confuse these qualifications with those of an experienced home inspector.

If the home in question has been vacant, make sure all the utilities are turned on so they can be tested and that the inspector has access to the entire home.

The typical inspection can go on for two hours and often longer. If you have questions, ask them. Be sure you look at the seller's disclosure statements ensuring any and all areas of concern are evaluated.

After the report is complete, read it — then read it again and, by the way, read it one more time. As you read, keep in mind that there's a difference between cosmetic repairs like paint peeling and material defects like a severe crack in a wall.

Finally, any inspector who identifies a problem and promotes himself as the solution is an inspector you want to stay away from. Ask for names of firms he isn't associated with that he'd recommend.

Remember that as a buyer you have rights — the most important being the right to say "No" if you find a defect that's so egregious to you that if it's not resolved to your satisfaction all bets are off.

THIS WEEK'S TIP: Freshen up Your Bathroom in 30 Seconds or Less (By Johanna Pierce)
We've all been there. The bathroom's a mess and suddenly guests arrive. What do you do? Turn out the lights and and pretend you're not home? Hang an "out of order" sign on the bathroom door?

I don't think so. If you're like me, you wind up doing everything you can to clean up as fast as possible.

The best way I've found to put a quick shine on the water closet is to give it the once over with Clorox Disinfecting Wipes. I keep a box handy under the vanity, and they work great. As their name implies, they disinfect as they clean and leave your bathroom with a fresh, clean smell to boot.

Johanna Pierce is a self-professed domestic junkie. She's the mother of two young boys, wife of one thirtysomething husband, queen of one standard-issue middle-class domicile and chief executive officer of WonderBlonde.com, a Web site from which she sells a variety of "blonde merchandise" to proud blonde women around the globe.

Home Work is a weekly column geared toward residential real estate.